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After twelve jam packed years of structured schooling with the monotonous routine of extracurricular, tests and exams, the opportunity to have a year off to do as you please is very tempting.

If you’re considering taking a gap year after matric, make sure you have plans in motion to avoid a year full of possibility going to waste.  

Here are some ideas for making the most of your gap year:

Fruit Picking

Picture: Wikimedia Commons.

Spend days baking under the sun, wading through underbrush, soaking up nature’s beauty. Fruit picking and sorting, vine pruning, weeding and tree planting are part of what it takes to earn a Working Holiday Visa in Australia. The visa enables holders to make an initial entry into Australia where they are permitted to do work of a casual nature as the main purpose of the visa is holiday and travel. Work that exceeds six months with any one employer is not permitted. If you’re up for the challenge, fruit pickers are able to travel, experience farm life (often in rural Australia), make new friends and experience a range of diverse cultures, all while earning money. 

Au pair

Picture: Wikimedia Commons.

There are a myriad of reasons to au pair. For starters, you will be living in a foreign country boasting an array of new and exciting experiences and cities and to explore. You’ll be immersed in a new culture and way of living from sharing everyday life with a local family. There are opportunities to study in your spare time, some programs require au pairs to complete at least six credits at an accredited college. As an au pair you will be fulfilling a job in the realm of child care and education where you will learn many professional skills and experience.

Pick up a new language

Possessing the ability to communicate in multiple languages is becoming increasingly valuable. In the workplace, communicating directly with clients in their home language significantly contributes towards building the foundation for long lasting business relationships.  Multi-lingual applicants are also automatically ahead of their peers when in the running for a promotion or prestigious position.

Teach your skill

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Whether you’re this century’s Beethoven on the piano, a skateboarding pro or a whiz at maths, tutoring a skill you’re passionate about can be exceptionally rewarding. Join a tutoring business or teach kids in your community, both offer the opportunity to earn money while learning valuable skills. 

Blogging

As intimidating, yet kind of exhilarating, as it may seem to have a year practically free of responsibility, know that there are thousands of people in the exact same position as you. Whether your gap year was planned or not, use it as an opportunity to explore your interests and learn more about yourself. By documenting this journey and sharing it with the rest of the world you can help others in your position while gaining insight into your strengths and passions. From fashion to food, there’s plenty of topics to explore. And who knows, you may even find you have a knack for expressing your thoughts through words?

Volunteering

Picture: Wikimedia Commons.

Volunteering is the ideal way to keep yourself busy while boosting your CV. You may not receive a salary, but the rewards lie in having the opportunity to give back to your community. Pick an organisation that’s related to a career you’re interested in, you’ll be able to learn new and necessary skills whilst gaining exposure to a working world similar to the one you wish to enter. For instance, if you want to be a lawyer, volunteer at a legal aid organisation.

Work on a cruise ship

Picture: Flickr.

If you have a love for the sea, working with people and travelling, a job on a cruise ship may be what you’re looking for. Cruise related jobs cover a broad variety of careers ranging from the entertainment team to  photography and housekeeping.  Most cruise companies have websites where you can search for and apply for jobs, be wary of scams and make sure the website you’re using is credible.

Intern/Job shadow

Ultimately gap years provide people with the time and perspective they need to figure out where they’re headed in life. Life moves at a dizzying pace and teenagers - who are currently trying to plan out their entire career paths in high school - often feel they are in over their heads. Through internships and job shadowing, matriculants can get a taste for the working world and understand what will one day be expected from them. Internships and shadowing also offer the opportunity to build one’s network through connecting with people in various fields. No matter what you’re interested in, there is an internship out there for you. Companies rely on interns to support them with their missions and are always happy to have keen members on board.